One in Five campaign hails creation of £200,000 fund for disabled candidates

Stuart Rodger

Access to Elected Office Fund now open for applications before 2017 local government elections

DISABILITY rights campaigners have celebrated the creation of an access fund for disabled people seeking election in the Scottish local elections next year.

The Access to Elected Office Fund, worth £200,000, has been established to help disabled people with the additional transport and communication costs incurred throughout their election campaigns. Examples of what the fund could pay for include a BSL sign language interpreter for all deaf candidates, taxi fares for those with mobility issues, or software for those with dyslexia.

Speaking for the One in Five campaign, which promotes access to politics for disabled people, organiser Jamie Szymkowiak said: “One in Five is delighted to hear [this fund] is now open for aspiring disabled politicians seeking support for the 2017 local elections. We hope to see as many disabled people of every political persuasion put themselves forward to ensure the fund is fully utilised and becomes a permanent fixture for all future elections.”

“One in Five is delighted to hear [this Fund] is now open for aspiring disabled politicians seeking support for the 2017 local elections.” Jamie Szymkowiak

He added: “The Scottish Government has now provided the money to help disabled people overcome the financial barrier to entering politics; now it's over to the political parties to ensure their members and prospective candidates are aware it's available.”

The announcement comes after Inclusion Scotland conducted research into the barriers disabled people face from entering politics: “We found that there are many things that may stop disabled people from getting into politics. One of the issues that was raised is money. People found themselves facing extra costs relating to their impairment.”

The Scottish Government minister for social security, Jeane Freeman MSP, said: “We know disabled people often find it difficult to access elected offices due to the many barriers that exist and the additional cost of being disabled can be one of them, but it is vital for society that all our groups are represented in politics and elected offices at all levels,” the organisation said.

“This funding will help break down some of those barriers.” Jeane Freeman MSP

She added: “This funding will help break down some of those barriers and comes as a direct response to one of the key demands from disabled people’s campaign organisations, who all highlight that funding is a major barrier for disabled people to even consider accessing politics.”

The one MSP who identifies as disabled, Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour, has previously said to the One in Five campaign: “I [was] very pleased and honoured to be elected to the Scottish Parliament but disappointed so few other disabled people were elected. I think in the next five years all political parties need to see what can be done to encourage more disabled people to stand and get elected.”

Picture courtesy of: Anjan Chatterjee

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